Remembering The Literacy Test Given to Blacks in Order to Vote in the 1960’s. Would You Have Passed?

voting_rights_1960By Malcolm Morrow

The website posted an article on Monday with scans of an actual Louisiana literacy test that was given to people of color during the 1960’s. This was done in response to the Supreme Court striking down Section 4(b) in the Voting Rights Act which required nine states with a history of racial discrimination to inform the Federal government and receive permission before changing any of its state laws regarding an individual’s right to vote.

During the era of racial discrimination, known as Jim Crow, there were many forms used to insure that people of color didn’t receive the rights that were afforded to Whites. One of the tools used to keep people of color from gaining a voice in politics was the literacy test. Literacy test were given to Blacks at the polls and were used to deny them their right to vote.

The test consists of 30 questions that contained typos and were deliberately constructed to cause confusion and it had to be taken in just ten short minutes. One wrong answer negated the whole test and insured that the individual would not be allowed to vote. For a look at the test itself, check it out here

It is puzzling to me that the Supreme Court decided to take away such a critical component of the Voting Rights Act at time when states are trying to impose new laws pertaining to voting that would severely impede on the rights of poor citizens. provided a glimpse at what has been happening in the country just last year, yet the Supreme Court claims that Section 4(b) is an outdated piece of legislation from days gone by. Here’s the whole story

According to, “25 laws and 2 executive actions passed since the beginning of 2011 in 19 states(Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin). 15 states have passed restrictive voting laws and executive actions that have the potential to impact the 2012 election (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin). These states account for 203 electoral votes, or 75 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.”

If all of that has happened with government approval, just imagine what these states have planned now that they no longer need permission to make such changes.

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